Open Data Institute asks: “Who owns our global data infrastructure?”


The Open Data Institute (ODI) has opened a debate on what a future data infrastructure will look like, with the publication of a paper: Who owns our data infrastructure?

The paper says that, just like our food, transport, energy and health infrastructures keep us fed, connected, warm and well, data keeps us informed: helping to create new discoveries or insights, better services or simply greater transparency. The aim of a data infrastructure, it goes on, is to make important data as accessible and widely used as possible.

The publication adds that a strong data infrastructure will reduce friction in the economy, and increase interoperability and collaboration in the public and private sectors. In turn, this will lead to greater efficiency and productivity at a local, national and global level.

Having the right conditions for widespread data use will benefit everyone, says the paper. It will:

  • Reduce transaction costs
  • Increase sustainability
  • Grow supply chains and
  • Inform citizens

In addition, a data infrastructure will:

  • Help society function better by improving access to data that underpins important services, products and research, helping to maintain its quality
  • Include data from public, private and non-profit organisations, be it closed, shared or openly licensed
  • Help us recognise the social, environmental and economic value in data

The case for data infrastructure

The paper says organisations that produce data can use it to improve their own operations, but it can also have huge value for wider groups. For example, aggregated mobile phone data reveals how crowds grow, shrink and shift. Phone companies use it position radio masts, but if made accessible, retailers can use it to plan where and when to open their stores, governments can use it to plan emergency responses, and charities can use it to target their interventions.

Jeni Tennison, Technical Director at the Open Data Institute said: “A coherent data infrastructure should be a baseline condition for a healthy, progressive society, and a competitive global economy. As a global community we need a considered debate about the extent to which our governments should ensure we can access the data we need. We should also establish the degree to which companies and other organisations have a social responsibility to share the data they have for everyone’s benefit.”


This article first appeared on The Guardian.